Bigger than Barcelona! Arsenal vs Man City can be the Emirates' greatest night

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The Gunners take on Pep Guardiola's side in what could be the defining game of the Premier League title race

It’s been 17 years since Arsenal waved goodbye to Highbury amid emotional scenes and began the short journey across N5 to make Emirates Stadium their new home. Since then it has played host to some huge games and witnessed some incredible moments, but nothing as big as what’s to come this week when Manchester City arrive in the capital.

Wednesday night’s top-of-the-table clash between Arsenal and Manchester City is the biggest game the Emirates has ever seen. It’s that simple.

There have been other big occasions. The second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester United in 2009 is one that immediately comes to mind, as do those epic Champions League clashes with Barcelona in 2010 and 2011.

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Some might point to the Premier League game against Leicester City in 2016 when Danny Welbeck sealed a late 2-1 win in the most dramatic of circumstances. Or even the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid in 2018.

All of those were undoubtedly big games in their own right,but this City game feels even more significant, even though there will still be 16 Premier League fixtures remaining for Arsenal when the full-time whistle blows.

These types of contests were the norm during the Highbury days, but they have dried up since Arsenal left the marble halls behind in 2006. Now - thanks to the remarkable form Mikel Arteta’s side have shown during the first half of the season - they have the opportunity to give the Emirates Stadium its greatest ever night on Wednesday.

“We’ll play with 15 players,” Arteta said, when asked about the impact the crowd could have on the match. “They are so into it with every single ball and giving us energy and support, and basically everything they have been doing.”

Victory against City will not win Arsenal the Premier League, it will not even put them in a position from which you would confidently be able to say that they would go on and win it. But what it would do is generate the type of belief that is needed for a team to go on and achieve something few would have predicted when the season started.

This is the type of game that Arsenal fans were accustomed to in the years leading up to the move to the Emirates. Back then, of course, it was the other Manchester club that was involved, with those incredible matches against United still revered to this day.

The whole season used to revolve around those two fixtures at Highbury and Old Trafford, and Wednesday night’s contest has that same sort of feel to it. The fact that we’ve had to wait until February for the first league meeting between the sides only adds to the sense of drama around the occasion.

Win and Arsenal move six points clear at the top of the table with 16 matches remaining. They will also have a game in hand. Lose, however, and they will see City knock them off top spot for the first time since way back in August.

“If you told me that at the start of the season, I would doubt it,” Arteta said, when quizzed on whether he would have envisaged being in this position before the campaign got underway. “I would hope, but I would be doubtful. But this is where we are.

“We have earned it and now we have to move every single day to try and improve what we do.”

Arsenal go into the top-of-the-table clash with questions being asked of them for the first time this season. Arteta’s side have now gone three games without a win in all competitions, with one of those games being a defeat at City in the FA Cup fourth round.

They have picked up just one point from a possible six in games against Everton and Brentford in the league and some players have started to look a bit jaded. All of that will be forgotten, however, with victory on Wednesday.

Tired legs will be recharged, doubts will be swept away and the growing talk of Arsenal’s young players being unable to deal with the pressure of a title race will be silenced.

“Let’s enjoy it,” Arteta said during his pre-match press conference. “A beautiful night on a really special day.”

There have been plenty of beautiful nights at the Emirates since Arsenal moved into their new home 17 years ago. If things go their way on Wednesday, however, it could prove to be the stadium’s first truly historic one.